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September 2009 Ecuador Bird Watching Trip Report

Author: Carl from Pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: September 2009

About 4:30pm Jairo took us on a walk to the Alambi River that runs across his property. In the river we saw a pair of Torrent Tyrannulets feeding. Later we saw a White-capped Dipper working its way across the rocks going down river.

We asked for light meals today, which consisted of dry toast and a rice & vegetable dish. I drank lots of hot mint tea.

masked trogon ecuador bird watchingOn Sept 17 we left at 7am to bird the Lower Tandayapa Valley road (0.004S 78.68W). The dirt road passes 2 trout fishing resorts and the tiny hamlet of Tandayapa before heading up the mountain. We stopped often on the side of the road and were able to see 37 bird species. The morning highlights included getting pictures of the Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, Masked Trogon, White-winged and Fawn-breasted Tanagers, Black Phoebes and Montane Woodcreepers. We saw a spectacular Golden-olive Woodpecker.

This valley is renowned for its Tanagers. We were able to see 6 different Tanagers this morning including the Black-capped, Beryl-spangled, Golden-naped, and Metallic-green.

New Hummingbirds included the Brown Inca and Tawny-bellied Hermit. By 10:30am the butterflies were out in mass, but birds had stopped moving, so we returned to Alambi. Maria had coffee and fresh Mint Tea waiting for us.

We watched the hummingbirds and tanagers this afternoon. At 3pm Jairo took us birding in the Upper Tandayapa Valley on the old dirt road to Quito (0.009S 78.654W). This is part of a reserve for the Oso de Anteojos bears (Jairo has seen 2 bears in 5 years).

blue winged mountain tanager ecuador bird watchingWe saw 20 bird species this afternoon, and got pictures of some Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Flycatchers, and the very hard to find Beautiful Jays. We saw the Orange-bellied Euphonia, Streak-necked Flycatcher, and Strong-billed Woodcreepers

We were up early on September 18 for a breakfast of fresh fruit, granola and liquid yogurt. We drove up the Tandayapa Road with a view of the snow-topped Cotopaxi Volcano (second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 19,347 ft) some 44 miles to the SW. We arrived at the Bellavista Reserve (0.036S 78.703W) around 7am.

plate billed mountain toucan ecuador bird watchingWe walked NE on the dirt road thru the Reserve for about 4 hours and saw 50 bird species. I got good pictures of the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Grass-green Tanager, Great Thrush, Cinnamon Flycatcher and a soaring White-throated Hawk.

We saw 8 Tanagers this morning including the Blue-and-black Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, and Dusky Bush-Tanager. We also saw 4 new hummingbirds including the Speckled Hummingbird, Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, and Gorgeted Sunangel.

Other new birds included the Toucan Barbet, Turquoise Jay, a flock of Scaly-naped and White-capped Parrots, and a Southern Yellow-Grosbeak. We stopped for a photo op at a roadside waterfalls on the drive back to Alambi. Maria had Lemongrass Tea made from fresh cut Lemongrass waiting for us.

We went back to the Upper Tandayapa Valley dirt road in the late afternoon to search for Quetzals. I only got a picture of a Long-tailed Antbird before the clouds descended on us. We returned to Alambi to enjoy the action at the feeders.

For dinner Maria fixed Yucca Soup and Ecuadorian pasta & ham, followed by Chamomile Tea made from freshly cut Matricaria Recutita, a.k.a. German chamomile, an annual plant from the Asteraceae family – Beautiful!!!

We were up at 4:15am on September 19 for an early breakfast and a half hour drive in the dark to the Peace Antpitta Reserve, a.k.a. Paz del Aves Reserve. This place is hard to find and you need reservations, so be sure to come with a guide that has been here before.

We met Angel Paz at 5:30am (still dark) for the 20-minute walk down hill thru the forest to the viewing hide for the Cock-of-the-Rocks. The trail was rough, but there was a rope handrail most of the way down, which helped a lot.

andean cock of the rock ecuador bird watchingAt first light, two male Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks were visible doing their courting dance to attract a female, and calling loudly. Numerous other Cock-of-the-Rocks were down the hill out of sight calling. Unfortunately, it was still so dark that none of my pictures were good enough to keep, before both males flew off in the direction of a calling female (a 50mm f1.4 lens is what you need here).

The show moved over to a feeding hide close-by. As a mob of large Sickle-winged Guans gathered in the trees, Angel prepared bananas to feed the birds. The Guans had descended in mass on the food, and mostly finished off the bananas, when they heard a Barred Forest-Falcon calling, and fled back to cover.

Miraculously, we then heard, and started seeing, the male Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks again (they rarely come back to the display area after they leave). We rushed back to the first hide. This time there was better light and the birds were closer, resulting in great pictures of these large red birds with their unmistakable head shape, black wings and white belly!

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